Monday, 30 December 2013

Why I run, I finally get it

I finally get it.

The non runner asks why? "I can't think of anything more dull than running".

Sure running can sometimes be boring and a chore to get done, running on a dark cold winters morning, where's the fun in that? Where's the fun when your thighs are burning running up a long hill?

But I finally get it, after 8 years of running and wondering why I run. It's after the run is done that I reap the benefits.

It's later that day when my thinking is somehow clearer.

It's at the end of the day when I'm so tired and I sleep like a baby.

It's later when I'm feeling chilled and I don't care that my neighbour drives a better car, has a better house or a better job.

It's after a lunchtime run I can work better.

It's after a lunchtime run I don't get stressed out by work.

It's after the run I want eat more healthy.

It's after the run when I feel more positive about myself.

The non runner says "It's bad for the joints"

The weight of an obese body is bad for the joints.

Yes I finally get it.

Friday, 27 December 2013

5 reasons trail running is better for you

Trail running is becoming more popular than ever. Below are 5 reasons you should hit the trails rather than the road of the treadmill:

Less pollution - Away from the traffic fumes, you're left to run how Mother Nature intended.

Less impact on your joints - Running on soft ground rather than Tarmac. It's a no brainer!

Better work out for your body - As your body continually adapts to the uneven surfaces, this will strengthen your ankles and your core muscles.

Get away from it all - Most the time on the trails you'll be alone, at best you'll see the odd dog walker or a like minded trail runner!

It's an adventure - More often of not, you'll take a wrong turn which we cause you to run new routes. Going out at night with a headtorch on the trails is also great fun.

Everyone will have some form of trails around them even if you live in a city; whether it's a park,canal path or woodlands. So what are you waiting for, ditch the Tarmac and Gym and go hit the trails!

Monday, 23 December 2013

Sole insulated response footbed

Although out of sight, the insole in the running trainer is one of the most important components of the shoe. From experience simply changing the insole in my trainers a few years ago to an off the shelf orphapedic type, gave me relief and help solve an achillies injury that had plagued me a while.

I was interested and curious in reviewing the Sole insulated footbed. An insulated orthapedic insole would be perfect especially as we are in the middle of Winter and I benefit from all the support I can get with my running.

The orphapedic qualities of the insole become very much personal to the user, because after popping them in the oven for a couple of minutes (yes in the oven!) putting them in place of your old insole, and then standing in your trainers, the footbed cools down and moulds specifically to your foot....Genius!

And it felt really comfortable, but how would it respond on the run?.....the result was excellent, I went out for a speedy 6 mile road run and I have to admit I noticed how comfortable my feet were feeling ( a lot more comfortable than my breathing!!)

I'm guessing that I won't really feel the benefits of the insulation until I'm running either on a cold wet trail run or when out in the snow.

The RRP for these may seem pricey at £45 but if you've been suffering any foot injuries, especially plantar fascia strain then these may be of benefit and you can pay way above this for specialist orthapedics.

I'm a size 8.5, the footbeds only come in whole sizes, so I received a 9 which I had to cut down to size. It's important that you only cut the toe piece and not the heel when resizing. This was an easy exercise.

Definitely a thumbs up from me, and they will be staying in my trainers, especially through the winter months.

For more information, you can visit the manufacturers website here:

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Running Funnies

Once upon a time I used to want to be a cartoonist.....

Since I started my blog in 2010, I've posted the odd cartoon I've drawn relating to the post. Here's my favourites from the last 3 years:

Barefoot running

Did cavemen taper?

That's Yoga, not Yoda!

Sobering thought!

After a tempo run!

Runners battle with food #1

Runners battle with food #2

All about the numbers!

Core training.

Fed up of sports drinks!

The big journey!

Sunday, 1 December 2013

From zero to hero

I haven't really done anything heroic as the title of this post may suggest. The 'zero' part is from last week where I ran no miles, whereas this week I ran 5 days in a row! (Hero) a mini runstreak was forming only for it to come to an end after a very late night Friday (little alcohol was consumed, I would like to add, just little sleep) I didn't want to become run down so enjoyed a rest day on Saturday.

All hail those who are run streakers, I know of a few on Twitter, but it's not for me. I love my running but I also love my rest days and I think if I ran everyday it would become a chore rather than a pleasure and it's a lot of pressure on the body.

Every run this week was done on the Basingstoke canal. Monday to Thursday I ran 4.12miles everyday (yes the 0.12 miles is worth mentioning!!!) with my usual 13 miles to work on Friday.

I ran with running partner and work colleague Brian at lunchtime something we hadn't done for a while. It was good fun, no pressure running although the pace was half decent, clocking up averages of 8:00, 8:02, 7:55 and 8:05. Consistent good tempo running.

I've been doing all my training the last couple of months based around my heart rate and using my Polar watch on each run. The Polar personal trainer website that you upload your workouts to is great. I've mentioned it before in an earlier post when I was reviewing the watch. The Star program which I use on the site sets a goal with how long you should spend in each of the 3 zones. Zone 1 being light training up to Zone 3 which is training at the top end of your heart rate.

The four lunchtime runs had me pretty much in zone 3 for most of the time, not good which makes heart rate training the best way to train at a personal level.

I managed to rectify this a little on Fridays run to work by going nice and slow and keeping the heart rate in zone 2 for most the way. It was a slow run and difficult sometimes not to want to speed up but I will run whatever is best for my heart.

I can't get into zone 1 for any length of time, I think I would have to record myself sleeping in that zone to keep my heart rate low enough to record in this zone.

I'm writing this post Sunday morning, I've already clocked up 30 miles this week, the intention is to get out for 6 miles today but family commitments and putting up the Christmas tree, might put pay to that. It depends how long it takes to unravel the lights and check every bulb is working!'s now Sunday evening as I finish this post, I didn't get out for the run, but we did get the tree up! 

I'd also like to give a couple of mentions. 

One to Maya from Happy Running Feet, who listed me in their best running sites: 

The other to Jody Raynsford (Writer, Ultrarunner, Men's Running Contributor) who used my blog as an example in a recent talk he did. Thank you both.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

A weeks rest

So I ran the Friday before last into work, then Saturday I couldn't make my Parkrun,Sunday I couldn't fit a run in, a Monday meeting at work meant no lunchtime run and I didn't want to run in the evening as I knew I would be running 10 hilly miles on Tuesday night. Well the Tuesday night trail run got called off due to one running friend being injured which means the other friend can't get a lift which means I'm not running around 10 miles of woodland on my own in the pitch dark! #scardycat 

Wednesday and Thursday were out due to work commitments which takes me a full week from running last. 

I finally ran to work again on Friday.

So the moral of the story is once in a while it's good to throw in a rest week, especially this time of year when the weather isn't particularly inviting to run in and the days are short of daylight. You won't lose any fitness and your body will appreciate a chance to rest up.

I felt fresh on my run, it's 13 miles after not running for a week. It's done my ankle the world of good, because all though it's pretty much healed, it does sometimes feel a little stiff which maybe down to scar tissue left from the injury? I don't know but it's a minor thing that doesn't affect my running and it's been feeling great after the mini break.

After all I did throw myself back into 7 weeks of marathon training after 5 months of no running so I think my ankle appreciates the welcome break.

I'm back to the routine next week though, which should get me back to 30 miles overall.

Canal path...Friday morning in the dark
I do question my sanity sometimes though.

The Friday run to work means waking at 5:15am have something light to eat, get ready and then head out the door at 6:15am. This Friday I noticed how much darker it stayed from the previous week, and it was freezing cold. 13 miles along the dark, cold canal path at stupid o'clock in the morning, before a day at work. But I love it and it's just something I do, it's routine. It has a purpose, in that it gets me to work. Even alone in the dark doesn't bother me along the canal path.

Once running becomes a habit, it's like any other habit, it becomes hard to break. Which in health terms is a good thing!

Saturday, 16 November 2013

6am Running

With no races planned at the moment, my running is feeling really relaxed and just where I want it at the moment. My Parkrun on a Saturday morning gives me my speed fix, a chance to see some sub 8 minute miles. Tuesday and running with friends with headtorches and on the hilly trails is something different. 13 miles into work on a Friday morning I love as it's a run with a purpose, it gets me to work! Throw in maybe a 4 or 6 miler and I've clocked up 30 miles with a good mix of running.

I like to make my run to work the most relaxing run of the week and take it at a nice easy pace. I do this mainly so I'm not tired out for the day ahead but also just to enjoy running how it should be. The route along the canal is quiet and traffic free a real chance to zone out.

So this week I decided to listen to some music, something I never usually do. Again it's something different to keep the running varied.

I leave home at 6:15am by the time I hit the canal the sun is just rising on the horizon, trees line the path and the ducks and herons are also starting the day. Hopefully I've painted the picture here, so the music to go with this needs to be as relaxing as the scenery and the running.

I've put together a playlist on Spotify called '6am Running'. It's laid back music, with a folk twist which I think is perfect for some laid back running.

So far the playlist is this:

Give it ago! Let me know what you think. Let me know any songs I should add, or if you are on Spotify go right ahead and add to the list! I've made the playlist collaborative which means anyone can add to it (I think). It can be diverse as you want as long as it fits the genre, I don't think Eninem quite fits this list! It would be great for people all around the world to add to it or suggest songs to add. I'm looking forward to your responses.

Happy listening and running.


Sunday, 3 November 2013

Mule bar

The good people at Mule bar sent over their energy range of products for me to review.

Over the last year, I've been trying to use 'real' food for fuelling on the run rather than the sickly sports drinks and gels that had become the staple runners source of energy when exercising. Sports drink I won't touch, 1) Because of what they contain, ie. bad sweeteners, too much sugar etc etc and 2) I find it disgusting how these companies know full well they are being consumed by children as a regular soft drink sold in fridges up and down the country in supermarkets and newsagents. Totally irresponsible in an age of obesity!

Sorry...rage over, back to the review.

You get the picture, I'm not going to review rubbish nutrition on this blog, so it was nice to receive some products that are promoted as natural, organic and fairtrade.

Mule bar are made in the UK and the energy range consists of: energy bars, protein recovery bars and energy gels.

The dominant ingredient in all the products is rice syrup, I'm no nutritionist but from what I've been reading on the Internet this appears to be one of the favoured natural sweeteners, if you've got to sweeten something.

The energy bars come in a range of seven flavours. I'll use the Mango Tango bar as an example of ingredients; Rice syrup 30%, Mango 28%, Oats 10%, Cashew nuts 9%, Rice crisp 9%, Whey protein 6%, Water 3%, Soy flour 3%, Amaranth (a healthy grain) 2% and Sunflower oil 1%.

Sugar and Glucose Fructose does turn up in small amounts in the choc/orange bars, but generally the above is a good example of the ingredients used across the bars.

I've used all the bars, they taste good ( with exception to the Summer pudding bar, sorry Mulebar, I didn't enjoy that one) and they work, I've used one bar before a range of runs from short fast 5k's to a long slow 13 miles and in both cases the one bar has proved adequate. Although for more intense longer runs I would take additional bars with me.

The refuel bars contain similar ingredients to the energy bars but have 20% Whey protein for muscle recovery, the chocolate and chocolate banana bar (25% banana) both tasted great.

I can't comment on the gels, because I don't use any form of gels anymore, I used to use them all the time but just didn't get on with them as I began to experiment using other forms of fuel on the run.

The gels vary in flavours, the sweetener being organic agave nectar and the electrolyte Himalayan crystal salt. The agave nectar gets mixed reviews as an alternative sweetener to sugar on the Internet, but again I'm not a nutritionist so cannot comment.

So overall, all good, I will definitely use these products again, and seem to tick all the boxes from what I'm looking for fuelling my running.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Back to basics

2012 was my best year for running achievements. I ran my second marathon in under 4 hours (just..3:58) and was probably as fit as I'd ever been. Fast forward to the end of October 2013 and I feel way off my best. Ok so what do I expect after 5 months out of action with a serious ankle injury, I came straight back after that to try and run a marathon within 7 weeks. 4 weeks on from that and I'm desperately trying to run as fast as I could 18 months ago. Reality check needed!

I was off work ill for a day this week, I went out with a couple of friends on Tuesday night for a trail run and had never been so sick on a run before. The trouble is we were half way round in the middle of nowhere so I had no choice but to run/walk my way around. With a couple of miles to go I let my friends carry on as I walked the rest of the way. As well as feeling awful we were running in an electric storm on the trails under trees, not a place you want to be at a time like this! Then an almighty downpour erupted. I was soaked through, alone,feeling sick, out of condition and fed up.

But it was an enlightening moment, down and out with my running and only one way to go...back to basics.

Time to dust myself down, forget about the poor marathon performance in Loch Ness and forget about trying to run as fast as Usain Bolt!

I'm a self taught runner so I'm sure all my techniques are totally wrong, while in my sick bed I stumbled on a great series of videos by Everyman Tri on You Tube.

There are some great breathing exercises for runners, stretches and some good running drills that are easy to follow and understand. 

One point that particularly interested me was running cadence, and how this improves your speed and efficiency. To work out your cadence you need to time how many times your right foot hits the ground in a minute. The way this was done in one of the videos was to count the foot strike in 15 seconds and then multiply by 4. The guy being analysed had a score of 80 when it should be around 90. It's all interesting stuff, and even if you're a seasoned runner I'm sure there's plenty to be gained from these excellent videos. Running seems such a simple process but you never stop learning.

This is exactly what I need a good makeover on my running form. So for the time being I'm starting from the bottom and working my way back up with my training and learning how to run again; the end result being that I'm a better/faster runner then I was in 2012.

Sunday, 13 October 2013


In the latter stages of a marathon, you question your sanity, well at least I do. Why am I putting my body through this? What am I really getting out of this? Why,why,why?

2 weeks ago, as you know I ran the Loch Ness marathon and towards the end I was asking these questions. The day after, when I was struggling to walk on any surface that had a downward gradient, I was asking these same questions. Am I really a marathon runner?

In some ways I'm not built to run long distances, I'm small and quick in short bursts. My fast twitch muscles work better than my slow twitch ones. So why after 8 years of running did I end up here on my third marathon?

The "Why I run" question is a tricky one, and one I always search to find the ultimate answer. It certainly keeps anxiety in order but ultimately it gives me a purpose. I'm a runner it's what I do, when I'm serious about it, it changes the way I eat and sleep for the better and changes my life.

I've got a family I love, I work for my family, my boys are my pride and joy, but I run for me! 

Running takes me away from the stresses and strains of life, I have to focus 100% on me and that's where the challenge of the marathon comes in. 26.2 miles is a long way to keep your body running, you have to intently focus on yourself, physically and phycologically you have to keep going beyond your limits and work with yourself to get to the end.

26.2 miles to me is the ultimate distance to accomplish, I couldn't go further, phycologically it would ruin me, the marathon distance is my boundary. I've learnt that, and I'm happy with that. Beyond that I have no intentions. Ultra running is definitely the latest running fad. Once an underground sport that only few endured is now becoming as mainstream as marathon running. But I've experienced running to my limits, and I know where they are.

I loved my weekend in Inverness, but I hated the training for this marathon. That's because I tried to cram it into 7 weeks after 5 months of nothing due to injury.

So after 2 weeks of reflection, I've now concluded:

I'm going to run one marathon every year, other races will consist of half marathons, a distance I enjoy to run. Did you know my run to work, which I run once a week is exactly 13.1 miles; the half marathon distance. Perfect!

I'm going to concentrate on getting some speed back into my running which seems to have deserted me since the injury, so that means getting back to Parkruns on a Saturday morning and using my lunchtime runs as well for this.

Some hilly miles over the ranges once a week will also make me a better runner.

I'm also really liking running with my new heart rate monitor. This tells me exactly how and when I should be training. We're all individual, what one persons doing is not necessary the blueprint for you to follow, but using your own heart rate as the guide is definitely what I'm going to be doing.

I'll stick to my long runs to be around the 13 - 16 mile mark for now because this keeps my base training perfect to ramp up to marathon training at any given time.

The last thing I need to master is my eating habits, I'm usually really keen on my nutrition within reason but lately the bad food temptations have been hard to resist.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Loch Ness Marathon 2013 race report

Well I done it. It wasn't pretty but somehow I managed to get myself around the 26.2mile course of the Loch Ness Marathon on 7 weeks training.
Along with friend Brian we made our way up to Inverness from Gatwick airport on Saturday night. We were staying at the Inverness tourist hostel and didn't arrive until 9pm, which meant we missed race registration that day and would have to be at the race village at 6:30am the next morning to collect our numbers. We ventured out on the streets of Inverness briefly to grab a Subway sandwich before turning in for the night.

Now in my 42 years I've never stayed in a hostel before. It was different but exactly how I imagined a backpackers hostel to be. A student feel about it and a place to rest your head, nothing flash but for £11 a night, you couldn't complain. We were in a small dormitory with 2 sets of bunk beds which we shared with two others. We were fortunate to have two other runners with us, Josephine, an Australian girl from New York, the other from Hong Kong (very international!) both very pleasant and we were lucky as you could end up with anyone. Knowing we weren't sharing with 2 physco killers meant for a peaceful couple of nights.

Race day and after the early start and collecting the numbers we headed straight to one of the awaiting buses for the 26 mile drive out of Inverness to the start line in the middle of nowhere. We drove past the Loch which looked great with the mist across it. It wasn't long before we were dropped off in the Wilderness and had a very cold hour long wait for the start. The surroundings were stunning, mountains as far as you could see but we were up high and exposed to a cold wind which was biting. We sheltered behind the baggage lorries and sat in ditches filled with heather which kept us reasonably warm.

Trying to get a pre race photo caused a problem....first shot ruined by man walking through.....

Second attempt, his running partner walks through and decides to have a photo!

...third time lucky I get my photo!

Apart from the cold start the weather for the 2 days we were in Scotland was beautiful and warm, it could easily have been so much worse at this time of the year.

Finally the race got underway as we ran through the start line and the band of bagpipe players. 

With lack of training I certainly wanted to run within myself and run high 9 min/mile laps. If you look at the elevation profile of the race online it appears that the first miles are downhill, then flat then one big hill, then a nice downhill to the finish....don't be deceived, the first half the race is very undulating, the up hills slowly drain the legs and the downhill's are just as bad, and it's quite difficult to find your rhythm with the elevation changes.

Around mile 5 at Foyers, it's the first significant hill on the course and then a big down hill as you head towards the banks of the famous Loch. Make the most of looking at the Loch on the bus trip to the start, because although a good 10 miles of the race takes you along the Loch, there are few places where you get a clear open view because a margin of trees line the road for the most the route.

By halfway I was feeling positive, Brian and myself had been chatting away and running steady 9:40 min/mile laps but another couple of miles and the early undulations would start taking their toll.

I tried not to think about the miles until halfway, then I would start playing the mind games and breaking the miles down. I began to slow and Brian began to pull away at mile 15. I was OK but knew I just needed to get my head down and get to mile 17, Once I'm at 17 then 20 and then worry about the rest.

17 miles and I was now beginning to feel it, and I knew somewhere around this point the big hill was approaching. I'd been fuelling on the water handed out along the course of which there were many stops, and the Clif shots which we're being given out at certain fuel stations. I'd not used these before but the small sweet cube of jelly was heaven to an ailing runners body!

I also carried a couple of 9 bars with me, for some real food fuelling, and the plan was to get to the hill and walk for a moment and reward myself with my last bar. I got just short of mile 18 and just had to walk. The moment I stopped so did my brain and it was going to be a tough finish to the race.

The hill arrived and I walked to the top, in fact I struggled to run for the next 2 miles, when I did try to run, I'd been reduced to the 'marathon shuffle!'

I was low, so had to give myself a good talking to in my head. "You've had your rest, now you've just got to run a 10K and then we're done". Surprisingly it worked and I managed to run the next couple of miles at a reasonable pace.

4 miles to go and that's just a lunchtime run that I do at work...but I don't go out to do a 4 mile run after running 22 miles! I kept going and to my surprise had even caught up Brian whom himself was now doing the 'marathon shuffle' it was good timing because between us we pulled each other within the last 2 miles of the race.

No pain, no gain
Those last 2 miles were hell, if we kept going we were in for a chance of getting inside a 4:30 time, but our bodies were shutting down fast. It was run/walk time again as the crowds got bigger and louder and tried to help us through. The final couple of miles in Inverness takes you along the River Ness, left over the main road bridge then back along the river for about half a mile to the finish. We ran(shuffled) to the bridge, and decided to walk the bridge then run to the finish line, just a short half mile away.

That short half mile seemed longer than the previous 25 miles! I was really struggling and had nothing left, the pins and needles in both hands was worrying but somehow and with the help of Brian urging me on I crossed the line in 4:39:20. 40 minutes off my PB but never the less a respectable time on a tricky course. I got my nice medal and t-shirt, grabbed my goodie bag, desperately searching for the food items within it.

All runners were given a token for a free soup and meal for after the race. I desperately needed the calories, Brian on the other hand crashed on the grass outside the food tent, and would rather lay still than eat. 

The butternut squash soup was nasty (sorry Baxters) and the Scottish stew ( of which I can't remember the name) was OK..ish, and I sat at a table in front of the duo playing some nice Scottish folk music and consumed the meal.

The meal wasn't the greatest but that's a minor criticism. Overall the event was very well organised. The bus start, the plentiful fuel stations, the Marshall's and staff, the medal and t-shirt, the village, bag handling was all done superbly well. A very scenic road race, one of which I'm glad I've ticked off.

Inverness done itself proud and is a very pleasant town. I enjoyed the Monday shuffling around the town, the weather was beautiful as we watched the world go by sat outside the coffee shops

There is no cheating a marathon, what you put in you get direct back. If you run up hills in training then hills are going to be easier on race day. If you do enough of those big 20 mile long training runs then the 26.2 mile distance is less of a problem. I had a bad sore throat in the week leading up to the race also, but I've got no real excuses, 7 weeks is not enough time to prepare for a marathon when you've been injured and out for 5 months and it showed in the last hour of the race which was soul destroying! But I made it and that's marathon number 3 completed.

Goodbye Scotland